Chelsea debate: Thomas Tuchel costly Christian Pulisic Real Madrid call prompts FA Cup question

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Chelsea debate: Thomas Tuchel costly Christian Pulisic Real Madrid call prompts FA Cup question
© Getty Images | Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images Did Thomas Tuchel get it wrong with his decision to sub Christian Pulisic on against Real Madrid?

With under 15 minutes to play, it appeared Thomas Tuchel’s Madrid miracle was actually going to happen. Timo Werner’s mazy solo run had unravelled Carlo Ancelotti’s already rocked defence to give Chelsea a 3-0 lead.

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Then Tuchel opted to take the confident Werner off for Christian Pulisic to add fresh legs to Chelsea’s intense attack. The move altered the game, with the American missing two guilt-edged chances in added time after Rodrygo had levelled the tie on aggregate.

Pulisic‘s display was disappointing, losing the ball too easily and failing to offer the same dynamic movement the German had before coming off.

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Football. london’s esteemed panel of Chelsea writers combine to give you their take on the sub, if it was the one wrong and what Tuchel should do heading into this weekend’s huge FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace.

Adam Newson

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As the ball dropped into the path of Pulisic, it felt like the American star’s moment. Hit the target, and Chelsea would almost certainly secure their place in the Champions League semi-finals. Unfortunately, the winger put his effort from close range over the crossbar and repeated that unfortunate trick moments later.

They were two huge misses from the only substitute Tuchel made in normal time. Pulisic replaced Werner, who had scored Chelsea‘s third and been a general nuisance throughout. It didn’t pay off, but that wasn’t for want of trying. And it’s very easy to deride the change after the fact. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

However, I wouldn’t start Pulisic in the FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace at the weekend. In the past two games, we’ve seen the return of last season’s front three – Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Werner – and it has clicked straight into gear. The movement, the rotation, the interplay, it just seems to come together with that trio. It’s why I’d go with Werner on the left of the Chelsea attack against Palace. It’s another chance for him to impress and save what appeared to be a Chelsea career drifting toward a disappointing end.

Anita Abayomi

It probably wasn’t the best move to make in hindsight. However, I understand why Tuchel had made the call. Chelsea needed something different, and looking onto the bench, Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech were the only game-changers to call upon.

At the time, I agreed with the switch, but Pulisic did not have that Captain America moment to bring Chelsea to the win. I cannot in a good mind blame him for the result at all. He did what he could do. We can only leave the game saying, “if only he had buried one of the two chances presented to him.

Scott Trotter

It’s always tempting to look at the outcome over the process. Pulisic has shown some lethal finishing in the past, and you don’t have to look further away than the Champions League last 16 to see the injection of pace he can bring and Tuchel would have expected the US international to have an impact on tiring legs.

Pulisic may have missed the opportunities that fell to him, but his introduction was always likely to come as one of few game-changers on the bench. The question is if Timo Werner needed to come off at the moment. The German international was a goal to the good and had tactically troubled Carlo Ancelotti’s backline throughout the evening at the Bernabeu.

There may be a question of ‘what if?’ but on the whole, Chelsea were brilliant bar some finishing and still managed three goals. Crashing out of the competition comes from the first leg failures. Nevertheless, Werner has done enough to earn another start if he is in condition to play at the weekend.

Jake Stokes

Pulisic always seems to be on the verge of something great at Chelsea, and then something happens that rains on his parade. Though I think he could be a great asset for the Blues moving forward, and he certainly has the potential to be such, it’s so hard to deny Werner a start ahead of the American international now.

As Scott said, there may be a question of ‘what if?’ but football is about performing and stepping up in the big moment, and unfortunately, the game was swept by Pulisic at the Santiago Bernabeu. This is by no means the end of him, but should he want to cement a role in Tuchel’s side, then he must become a consistent seven out of ten performer at the very least, with a sprinkle of magic.

This is all healthy competition in my books. Let’s have it.

Daniel Childs

Football is a game of fine margins, and I think we are too quick to blame a coach for a decision purely on its result. In 2021, Pulisic was a devastating sub against Real Madrid’s tiring backline in the second half. Here, he wasn’t, but that came down to the American’s poor finishing in added time.

He had two great chances to send Chelsea through after Rodrygo scored, and if he had, we would be talking about a different game. Timo Werner, for my criticism, showed a level of quality and character last night that cannot be ignored, meaning he is in my lineup for Sunday.

It is now on Pulisic to respond as Werner did to being out of the first team.

Did Thomas Tuchel get the sub wrong against Real Madrid? Let us know thoughts in the comments below

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